Can't Stop Reading

Lucky for me I get a hefty discount at work, because I just can't seem to stop myself!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The other novel I read this weekend was the first volume in a new series. Triskelia Book One: The Droughlanders is Carrie Mac's newest. It was sold to me as fantasy, but it really seems more like science fiction to me.

Its the story of twins Seth and Eli, who are keylanders. That means they live a privileged existence in one of the keys, which are sort of like walled cities. But not just any walled cities. The keys control the weather, and rain only falls where and when they make it. So the rest of the world is the Droughtland, full of dirty Droughtlanders, who are prone to Sicks.

Anyways, Seth and Eli hate each other with a passion, and when their mother Lisette is killed in a bombing, their differences really come out. Seth ends up joining the guards, and Eli runs away to try and join the Droughtland revolutionary group, the Triskelians.

I don't really want to say too much more, and give away the story, so I'll leave it at that. The story took me a while to get into at first, because its pretty brutal. Seth and Eli definitely live in a world that's violent and full of conflict. This book would definitely be a great one to give to older, teenaged boys.

Seth and Eli are also both a great draw for the older teenaged crowd. My personal favourite is Seth, who is morally corrupt at best, a psychopath at worst. Mac's skills definitely lie in creating characters and dilemmas that are morally ambiguous.

My only complaint about this book is that it ends on a serious cliff hanger. Really, I am desperate for book two. Very desperate.

Triskelia Book One: The Droughtlanders by Carrie Mac
ISBN 0670065455
360 pages

So I haven't just been reading picture books over the last few days, there's been some novels in there too. One of which was Past Crimes by Carol Matas. Matas has written quite a bit of historical fiction for kids, mostly to do with the Jewish experience. Which is cool, because a lot of Canadian historical fiction is dominated by the French/English thing.

Anyways, this book is not historical fiction, though there a few things do pop up. Ros is a single mother, going to university in Palm Springs. She's a single mom because her husband was shot while working as a police officer. So Ros starts having these weird dreams, where she's in the Spanish Inquisition, at the same time that a lot of weird stuff keeps happening to her. First, there's the whole dead husband thing, though that was a while ago. More recently, she's been shot at, and had her house burned down. Ros has to try and figure out the connection, with the help of a poetry reading cop named Allan.

The story itself was actually pretty interesting, even though I had the baddie pegged not too far into the book. There were some good twists, though, that made me reconsider my conclusion.

So why didn't I love this book? I'm not totally sure on that, but I think its because I never really felt like I connected with Ros. So much of her personality is tied up with being a mother, that I found her difficult to relate to. I also found it weird that she's a very young, very single mother, and Matas didn't really deal too much with that. All that being said, it was an enjoyable way to spend a few hours, with an interesting reincarnation twist on a classic mystery.

Past Crimes by Carol Matas
ISBN 1552638413
192 pages

The best part about my job is the new books. Sorry, the new books that are awesome. Just such a book came in today, and I think I have found a new favourite. It's called The Opposite and its about a boy named Nate.

One morning, Nate wakes up to find an opposite on his ceiling. The Opposite causes trouble for Nate all day long, spilling milk and paint at inopportune moments. But every time Nate tries to explain, the Opposite disappears. Finally Nate catches on and manages to beat the opposite at his own game. Hurrah!

I should note here that Elena Odriozola's illustrations are fantastic. Really fantastic. The Opposite is a funny looking guy in a onesie that comes up over his head. And his nose is really big. Basically, he cracked me up.

I should also note that this is Tom MacRae's first kids book. I know! To write something so perfectly great on your first time out is quite impressive. He's also very good looking (I'll be nominating him for Fuse #8's Hot Men of Children's Literatures Series fo' sho'!). Which has nothing to do with anything, but I couldn't help but notice his photo on the back jacket.

The Opposite written by Tom MacRae illustrated by Elena Odriozola
ISBN 1561453714
24 pages

Because its summer, I keep leaving town and neglecting the blog. Sorry. But I am thihnking it is good for you all to get used to it, because I am officially going to Australia. On October 11th. I will be doing my damndest to keep up here, but I suspect blogging will be spotty at best.

In the mean time, a new book from one of my favourite picture book authors came in this month. Meerkat Mail is the story of Sunny the meerkat. Sunny is a little tired of his life in the Kalahari Desert. So he decides to go travelling, visiting relatives all over the world. each page has a postcard sent by Sunny to the family he left behind. As the book progresses, you can see Sunny enjoying himself less and less, and missing home more and more. Its really cute, because its Emily Gravett, who I think is incapable of putting out a book that's not cute.

However.... I hated that Sunny went all over the place, and stayed with various animals related to meerkats, but that I never knew who they were, and where they were. This book could have greatly benefited from a little afterword that could have described the various species Sunny visited, and their habitats. A little bit more information could have led to this being a great book, a book that librarians and teachers would have been all over. Instead, its a good book, that will probably never be used in a classroom.

Meerkat Mail written and illustrated by Emily Gravett
ISBN 1405052155
32 pages

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Time for some picture books!

First up: Looking for a Moose. This book totally cracks me up. Its about a group of kids who've never seen "a moose- a long-leggy moose- a branchy-antler, dinner-diving, bulgy-nose moose." So they set out to find one, and they search high and low. The best part is, the illustrations are riddled with moose, but the kids just can't seem to find them. Which works out all to the best for the reader, because you get to hear the chorus over and over again. I love it!

Obviously the moose are found in the end. Although we never do learn the plural of moose. Mooses?

Looking for a Moose written by Phyllis Root illustrated by Randy Cecil
ISBN 076362005x
40 pages

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

After I read K.L. Going's new book, I wanted to kick myself in the pants for not having read Fat Kid Rules the World. Instead I went out and read it. Man, am I ever glad I did.

Troy is the fat kid of the title. And he spends most of his time trying not to be funny, though kids seem to laugh at him no matter what he does. Although he has painfully low self-esteem, his thought process is hilarious. I especially loved the headlines he comes up with to compliment his actions.

Anyways, Troy is contemplating ending his miserable life when he meets Curt MacRae. Curt is an amazing punk guitarist, and he talks Troy into being his drummer. Except the last time Troy played drums was in middle school. And also, he's fat. Which means he really shouldn't be doing anything that makes him stand out. Right?

Going's amazing on her descriptions of punk, and the whole scene in general. The show that Troy attends, the records and cd's he listens to, all are described with amazing precision. But most important is how all this makes Troy feel, and that is the centre of this book.

Fat Kid Liberated by Punk Rock!

Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going
ISBN 0142402087
192 pages

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Okay, last night I was going to try and do a triple post, but I got distracted. So I'm going to talk about Vegan Virgin Valentine today.

It's Carolyn Mackler's new book, and its about a girl named Mara Valentine. Mara is a total overachiever. Really, she's totally crazy. Part of her compulsion to do well comes from parental expectations. Her much older sister dropped out of college and hasn't really done anything since. Except give birth to V, Mara's niece. When Mara's sister decides to take off for Costa Rica (something about having always wanted to be a Carribean cuisine chef), V comes to live with Mara and her parents. V is the opposite of Mara: she smokes, she's not a virgin, and she could care less about school. So the book is basically Mara's senior year and how she changes, thanks to V and a few other influences.

Although I enjoyed the book, especially Mara (who is often hilarious, but not on purpose), this was no The Earth, my Butt, and other Big, Round Things. To be honest, I kind of feel like the book should have been longer. Mara's relationship with her father wasn't handled with enough depth, and V as a character just didn't seem developed enough, like maybe she needed to do some narrating herself.

That being said, I still enjoyed the book immensely, and would recommend it to anyone who likes teenage girl fiction with a brain.

Vegan Virgin Valentin by Carolyn Mackler
ISBN 0763621552
240 pages

Monday, August 21, 2006

Wow, so I'm back. The workshop was amazing! So many great people, so much information, so little sleep! Amazingly I did manage to get a few things read while I was gone. So here is the rundown for you:

Heavy Metal and You I picked this up 'cause I know I'd read about it somewhere. I'm thinking Bookshelves of Doom, but I'm really too lazy to check it out. It’s the story of Sam, and the girl he falls in love with. Sam's life revolves around heavy metal music, and hanging out with his friends (which usually translates as getting wasted with his friends). But then he meets Melissa, and she's amazing, and she's all he can think about. Well, almost all he can think about; a boy's gotta listen to music, right? Author Christopher Krovatin is obviously a huge metal fan, but one who can wax lyrical about the music in all its forms, too. Not to say that metal heads are dumb, but I haven't heard a case made for the music like he does.

Anyways, the problem with Melissa is that she's not into metal. Or his friends, or his extra curricular or anything he's into at all really. And her friends make him want to scream with their phoniness. I think we can all see where this is going. But though Krovatin uses clichés for plot devices, his writing is phenomenal. Sam, and his passion for heavy metal are as real as it gets.

All of which translates into: Christopher Krovatin, when is your next book coming out?

Heavy Metal and You by Christopher Krovatin
ISBN 0439743990
186 pages

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Okay people, I have some sad news. In an attempt to get a good job, I have signed up to do Simon Fraser University's Publishing Immersion Workshop. It starts Monday, and I'll be working 8.30am to 10pm for 13 days straight. So I will probably not be posting so much. I'll do my best, but I'm thinking my reading time is going to be cut down significantly.

Have a good two weeks!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Somehow or other, until yesterday, I had not read Pop Princess by Rachel Cohn. Whom I adore. Fortunately, I have now rectified this situation. I think I can safely say, I have read every book she has published.

Pop Princess is about a girl from New England, named Wonder, who becomes the next Britney Spears. Which, it turns out, is not really what she wants out of life. I should say here that this is probably my least favourite Rachel Cohn book. That still means I really enjoyed it though. I think it might have to do with the subject matter. It just isn't really all that interesting to me. I have to give her props though, she keeps her signature honesty going on in the book. My favourite thing about a Rachel Cohn heroine? They're totally lustful. I hate reading about teenage girls who find it easy to eschew sex. Who are those people? In real life, the only reason teenage girls aren't as into sex as guys, is because they are afraid of being labelled whores.

This one has just enough of that label dropping, expensive night club scene to be fun for the Gossip Girls set, but because it's Rachel Cohn, it has some substance going on, too.

Pop Princess by Rachel Cohn
ISBN 1416902635
311 pages

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The fall ARC's continue to trickle in here, and the other day brought a package from Orca Books. They all looked good, but I settled on Safe House by James Heneghan.

Liam lives in the Catholic area of West Belfast, with his mum and dad. He spends a lot of his free time at the Youth Circus, an organization that was started to bring Catholic and Protestant kids together. Despite living in a bit of a war zone, life is pretty normal for Liam and his friends. Until one night, two men break into his house and kill his parents. And one of the men takes off his mask before realizing that Liam is there. Liam ends up in a police safe house, but it's not safe from the man with the mole who killed his mum and dad. So he heads out on his own, trying to avoid the killer he refers to as The Mole.

Although all ends well for Liam (I mean, as well as can be expected for a 12-year-old boy who witnessed his parents murder), this book is definitely not for the faint of heart. Any kids who are disturbed by violence should probably not be handed a copy of this one. That's not to say, though, that Heneghan uses violence for the sake of it. The story moves quickly, and Liam's experiences will definitely help kids realize the reality of what life has been like in Northern Ireland, during the time of the Troubles.

Safe House by James Heneghan
ISBN 155143640x
176 pages

Yes! Another Maureen Johnson book came in yesterday! The Bermudez Triangle is what Nina, Mel and Avery have called themselves since they were kids. They even have a really funny triangle power ceremony that they do every now and then. The book starts off at the start of the first summer they'll ever spend away from each other. Nina is going to some crazy brain camp thing at Stanford for 10 weeks (note: do American high schools really get that much time off during the summer? I feel totally ripped off), and Avery and Mel are staying home and working at J.P. Mortimer's, a fake Irish chain restaurant.

While Nina's gone, she falls hard for Steve, who lives in Oregon. Also while she's gone, Avery and Mel hook up. Mel has known that she is a lesbian for a long time, but she's been too afraid to admit it to herself, let alone own up to it. Avery does not feel that she's gay, and the whole relationship starts to freak her out. Then Nina comes home, and they don't tell her! That is by far the worst part of the book to me. That awful feeling of being excluded by your best friends? I hate that!

Anyways, the book follows the girls for the remainder of the school year, as Mel and Avery get outed to the whole school, Avery cheats on Mel with a boy, Steve breaks up with Nina, and new friend Parker falls hard for Nina.

That's a lot of be happening in one year, and with the perspective changing around between the three friends, it's a lot to get into one book. So that's my criticism. Johnson was trying to get too much into one book. I still loved it, mind you. I just wanted more. As in, maybe this should have been more than one book. Which as criticisms go is a pretty good one to be getting, no?

The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson
ISBN 1595140336
384 pages

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Wherein my readers start to wonder if I am obsessed with Pride and Prejudice: I'm not really! But these knock-offs keep coming in! Today's is yet another trilogy, this one called Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman. The first volume in the series is An Assembly Such as This. Author Pamela Aidan has decided that we should all know what's going on with Mr. Darcy throughout Austen's story, so she's kindly written it out for us. Quite well, too, I might add. The writing is that over the top regency style, and Darcy is quite torturously in love with Elizabeth.

This is one of those books that is really great for some people, and really not at all for others. When you read Jane Austen, are you thinking that she is a master of irony and the English language? If so, you will probably not enjoy this one. But if you get into the story, and the romantic aspect of Austen's books, you will probably love this one. I never really thought I could love Darcy more than I do, but Aidan has put me over the top! Pity the men of the 21st century, because they have no chance with me!

An Assembly Such as This: A Novel of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman by Pamela Aidan
ISBN 0743291344
288 pages

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

It has been quite a while since I've reviewed any nonfiction, I'm thinking. Plus, we are going to be at the bookseller's table for the September meeting of the Victoria Children's Literature Roundtable, and Diane Swanson is the guest speaker. Diane Swanson is the queen of kid's nonfiction. Really, look her up; she's out of control.

Her newest book is called A Crash of Rhinos, a Party of Jays, and it's all about the names of animal groups. She's picked 11 animal groups, and they each get a two-page spread. Each spread features the group name, a few sentences on why the name makes sense, a few fun facts about the animal in question, a colour photo, and a funny illustration. I kind of wish the photograph was a bit bigger on each page, but that's my only complaint. Other than I wish the book was longer. Its super cool, and I really think kids will have a fun time checking it out.

A Crash of Rhinos, a Party of Jays by Diane Swanson
ISBN 1554510481
24 pages

By far one of the best fictional families of recent years is the Casson clan. Lucky for me, Hilary McKay seems to agree with me, and she keeps churning their stories out. The latest is called Caddy Ever After.

I should state for the record that I enjoyed this book just as much as the previous three (Saffy's Angel, Indigo's Star, and Permanent Rose)but I do think it may have been mistitled. Or maybe it should have been two books, rather than one. At any rate, Caddy (short for Cadmium Blue) is the eldest Casson, and everyone knows she is supposed to marry Darling Michael. Everyone except Caddy, that is. But before we get to that, we have to go through the adventure of the Valentine's disco, as told by Rose, Indigo and Saffy. Once again, Rose steals the show in every scene she's in. Which is kind of what I was getting at earlier. Caddy only really makes an appearance at the end of the book, so why is this 'her' book? It seems like another Rose book.

It is hard to write these things and sound not complainey about them. And I am really not complaining. Because I love this family, and I will happily gobble up anything Hilary McKay sees fit to publish about them. And you should too.

Caddy Ever After by Hilary McKay
ISBN 0340903147
218 pages